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Vocational Guidance for Girls online

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theater, plus choir practice, plus the informal evening at her chum's,
plus a dozen other dissipations, that in the course of a few years
change a quiet, home-loving little schoolgirl into a gadding,
overwrought, uneasy woman.

Unless one has tried it, it is perhaps hard to realize how difficult
it is for an individual mother to regulate social custom in her
community even for her own daughter without causing the girl
unhappiness and possibly destroying her delight in her home. No girl
enjoys leaving the party at ten when "the other girls" stay until
twelve. Nor does she enjoy declining invitations when the other girls
all go. But what the individual mother finds difficult, community
sentiment can easily accomplish. The woman's club or the mothers' club
or the parent-teacher association, or better yet all three, may
profitably discuss the question, and may set about the creation of the
sentiment required.

Quite as important as "How often shall she go?" is the question "With
whom is she going?" There are two ways of approaching the problem here
involved. One requires more knowledge for the girl herself, that she
may better judge what constitutes a worthy companion. The other is
reached by the better training of boys, that more of them may develop
into the sort of young men with whom we may trust our daughters.

Parents who take the time and trouble to acquaint themselves with the
boys in their daughter's social circle will find themselves better
able to aid the girl in her choice of friends. The very best place for
this getting acquainted is the girl's own home, to which, therefore,
young people should often be informally invited. Nor should parents
neglect occasional opportunities to observe their daughter's friends
in other environment - at the church social or supper, at
entertainments, at school, or on the street. Fortunately the revolt
against a dual standard of purity for men and women holds promise of a
larger proportion of clean, controlled, trustworthy boys.

It will never be quite safe, however, to trust either our boys or our
girls to resist instincts implanted by nature and restrained only by
the artificial barriers of society, unless we keep their imaginations
busy, and unless we implant ideals of conduct high enough to make them
desire self-control for ends which seem beautiful and good to
themselves. The adolescent period is especially favorable for the
formation of ideals, and a high conception of love and marriage will
probably prove the truest safeguard our boys and girls can have.

The reading of the period is of special importance. At no other time
of life will altruism, self-sacrifice, high ideals of honor and of
love, make so strong an appeal as now. Adolescent reading must make
the most of this fact. Some of the great love stories of literature
and biography should be read, especially one or two which involve the
putting aside of desire at the call of a higher motive. At least one
story involving the world-old theme of the betrayed woman - _The
Scarlet Letter_, perhaps, or _Adam Bede_ - should be "required reading"
for every adolescent girl, and should after reading be the subject of
thoughtful and loving discussion by the girl and her mother in one of
the confidential chats which should be frequent between them.

Girls must learn from their mothers and teachers to distrust the boy
who shows any inclination to take liberties, and they must also learn
that girls, consciously or more often otherwise, daily put temptation
in the way of boys who desire to do right, and invite liberties from
the other sort. Restraint, in dress, in carriage, in manners, and in
conversation, _must be made to seem right and desirable to the girl_,
for her own sake and no less for the good of the other sex. This of
course means that teachers must set fine examples before the girl in
their own dress and deportment.

To counteract the dangerous tendencies which have become intensified
by the wholesale breaking of social customs during the war, it is
necessary that parents and teachers give very careful attention to the
dress of girls and to the demeanor of boys and girls of the adolescent
period. Many teachers are improperly dressed and setting the wrong
example. Many parents are dressing carelessly and sending their girls
to high school improperly dressed. The boys are tempted - yes, are
forced - to observe the bodies of their girl classmates, in
study-rooms, halls, laboratories, and on playgrounds. These girls who
are immodestly dressed are not only exposing themselves to danger and
inviting familiarities, but are tempting the boys to go wrong. Many
of the tragedies in our schools can be traced to this source.

To handle this very serious and very difficult problem it is necessary
that all mothers of high-school boys and girls organize and cooperate
with principals and teachers. The task is gigantic, for the customs
and suggestions which are responsible for present-day conditions are
many and permeate our magazines, books, moving pictures, dances, and
nearly all social gatherings.

Many superintendents, teachers, and parents have been very seriously
studying these social and moral problems and making plans to start
reforms at once in the public schools. The most practical method thus
far presented appears to be the requirement of uniform dress for all
girls in the upper grades and in high school. This custom is already
established in some of our best private schools. Uniform dress has a
very democratic training which commends it. It is less expensive than
the present varied styles. It is practical, for it avoids
discrimination which would lead to many private difficulties.

The girl has now reached the time when her bits of knowledge of sex
matters, gained gradually since the first stirrings of curiosity in
her little girlhood, should be gathered, summarized, and given
practical application to the mature life she will soon enter upon.

Thoughtful investigation does not lead to the conclusion that girls
need especially a detailed physiological presentation of the subject
so much as a study of the psychological aspects of the sex life.
Personal purity is primarily a matter of mind.

Girls who all their lives have been familiar with the mystery of
birth, who at puberty have been instructed in the delicacy of the
sexual organs and processes and in the care they must exercise to
bring them to normal development, are now ready to be taught the
vital necessity of subordinating the animal to the spiritual in the
sex life.

It may seem unwise and unnecessary to put before young girls so dark
and distressing a subject as the social evil. Yet I know of no way to
combat this evil without teaching all girls what must be avoided. When
girls realize that the social evil

1. Rests upon a foundation of purely unrestrained animal

2. That a single sexual misstep has ruined thousands upon
thousands of girls' lives;

3. That ignorance or the one misstep has led thousands to a
permanent life of shame;

4. That such a life means, sooner or later, sorrow, impaired or
destroyed health, disgrace, and early death to its woman

5. That the social evil destroys the efficiency and the moral
worth of men;

6. That it sets free deadly disease germs to permeate society,
causing untold misery among the innocent,

then, and not until then, can they be taught

1. To recognize and fear animal instinct unrestrained by higher

2. To guard their own instincts;

3. To hold men to a high standard of social purity and to help
them attain it.

Nor does this teaching necessitate morbid consideration of the
subject. It will, in fact, in many cases clear away the morbid
curiosity and surreptitious seeking after information in which
untaught girls indulge. Skillfully and delicately taught this
knowledge as an important and serious part of woman's work, girls will
be sweeter and more womanly for the knowledge of their responsibility
to society and to their unborn offspring.

Schools that attempt such a course for girls are finding their chief
difficulty in discovering people properly endowed by nature and
properly trained to teach it. To give such work into any but the
wisest hands invites disaster. To make it a study of the physical
basis of sexual life is disaster in itself. Service, through making
one's self a pure member of society, and through helping others to
keep the same standard - this must be the keynote of the teaching, an
education toward social efficiency and social uplift.



The adolescent girl, already the product of a general training which
has aimed at all-round development of body, mind, and spirit, is now
ready for the specializing which shall place her in tune with the
world of industry and help her to make for herself a permanent and
useful place in society. Henceforward the girl's training must face
her double possibilities. She must not be allowed to have an eye
single to making an industrial place for herself; nor can those who
educate her fail to see the double work she must do.

Any consideration of the subject of girls' work outside the home or
work in the home for financial return must begin with a general survey
of the field of industry, discovering what women have done and are
doing, together with the effects of gainful occupation upon the
character and efficiency of women.

The United States Census reports for 1910 give the following figures:

Number of Females Ten Years and Over
Year Engaged in Gainful Occupations
1880 2,647,157
1890 4,005,532
1900 5,319,397
1910 8,075,772

It is thus seen that gainful occupations for women have increased
greatly in the thirty years covered by the report. At present 21.2 per
cent of all females, or 23.4 of all over ten years of age, are engaged
in work for wages. Further tabulation brings out the fact that,
whereas the age period from twenty-one to forty-four shows the largest
percentage of men employed in gainful work, women show the largest
proportion of their numbers so employed during the age period from
sixteen to twenty. Evidently the girls are at work. The figures

Age Period Per Cent Age Period Per Cent
10-13 16.6 10-13 8.0
14-15 41.4 14-15 19.8
16-20 79.2 16-20 39.9
21-44 96.7 21-44 26.3
45 and over 85.9 45 and over 15.7

Compare with these figures the following table:


11.2 per cent, or 1/9, of all women marry before 20
47.3 " " " 1/2 " " " " " 25
72.4 " " " 3/4 " " " " " 30
83.3 " " " 5/6 " " " " " 35
88.8 " " " 8/9 " " " " " 45
92.1 " " " 11/12 " " " " " 55
93.3 " " " 14/15 " " " " " 65
93.8 " " " 15/16 " " " " " 100

It will be observed that since the percentage of women at work
decreases after twenty, the number of women who marry and presumably
become homemakers is very largely increased.

These figures would seem to indicate that girls go to work early, that
as yet industry does not largely prevent marriage, and that marriage
does in many or most cases stop women's industrial careers.

Inquiry as to what women are doing in the industrial world elicits
important facts. It would seem that Olive Schreiner's "For the present
we take all labor for our province" is very nearly a bare statement
of attested fact. The Census report includes 509 closely classified
occupations. Women are found in all but 43. Even allowing for the
inaccuracy of such figures, and passing over the occupations which
take in only an occasional woman, it is seen that "woman's sphere" can
no longer be arbitrarily defined. The following facts and figures for
women give us food for thought:

Farm laborers (working out) 337,522
Iron and steel industries 29,182
Chemical industries 15,577
Clay, glass, and stone industries 11,849
Electrical supply factories 11,041
Lumber and furniture industries 17,214
Steam railroad laborers 3,248

[Illustration: Photograph by C. Park Pressey
The 1910 Census showed over three hundred and thirty thousand women
employed as farm laborers. This number did not include wives or
daughters of farm-owners]

The foregoing facts concern occupations which were once associated
entirely with men. If we enter the ranks of more womanly work we shall

Dressmakers 447,760
Milliners 122,070
Sewers and sewing-machine operators 231,106
Telephone operators 88,262
Nurses 187,420
Clerks and saleswomen in stores 362,081
Stenographers and typists 263,315
Bookkeepers, cashiers, and accountants 187,155
Cooks 333,436
Laundresses (not in laundries) 520,004
Teachers 478,027

These are of course merely a few among the four hundred and fifty
kinds of work in which women are found. Any survey of women's work
comes close to a general survey of industry. We shall find that in
some occupations the proportion of men is much larger than that of
women. In others women have made rapid strides. The accompanying
diagram shows that in professional service, in domestic and personal
service, and in clerical occupations women are found in largest
numbers. In domestic and personal service the women outnumber the men
more than two to one. In professional service there are four women to
five men, a large proportion of the women being teachers. In the
clerical occupations we have one woman to each two men, in
manufacturing one woman to six men, in agriculture one woman to seven
men, and in trade one to eight. The occupations for women have been
changed somewhat by the new industrial conditions forced upon us by
the war, but it is very probable that in a few years the industrial
world will return to its normal status before the war for both men and

[Illustration: Proportions of men and women in the United States
engaged in special occupations]

[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood & Underwood
Farmerettes. During the World War women at home and abroad rendered
especially valuable services in agricultural work]

If it is true that women are claiming and will continue to claim "all
labor" for their province, the claim must rest upon one of two
assumptions: Either women are physically, mentally, and morally
identical in their capabilities with men, or differences in physical,
mental, and moral make-up must be considered as not affecting work.
Most of us are not yet ready to agree to either of these premises. We
must therefore believe that some occupations are more suitable for one
sex than for the other. The fact is, however, that only a small group
of radical thinkers have made the opposite claim. Women are found, it
is true, in a large number of the occupations in which men are found.
But they are there for some other reason than that they claim all
labor as their sphere. Some are driven by the stern necessity of doing
whatever work is at hand; some by ignorance of their unfitness, or of
the unfitness of the work for them; some by the spirit of the age
which says, "Come, be free. Try these things that men do. See if they
suit you. Find your sphere."

Probably, however, this last reason for entering unsuitable
occupations is the one least often underlying the choice. Girls select
vocations in the main as boys do. Until very lately chance has been
the ruling element far oftener than anything else.

Studies in industry are now for the first time giving us adequate
information as to requirements for efficiency, working conditions,
wages, living possibilities, and the effects, moral and physical, of
various occupations upon both men and women. The problems arising out
of the crossing and recrossing of these various elements are as yet
but vaguely understood. The great gain lies in the fact that their
solution is being sought.

The community is of necessity interested in workingwomen as it is in
workingmen. Without these workers the community does not exist. When
they are ill-paid, overworked, underfed, discontented, or inefficient,
the community necessarily suffers. When they work under proper
conditions, the community shares their prosperity. It is thus coming
to be seen that the condition of workers is the concern of all the
members of the community.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Factory workers. Sewers and sewing-machine operators to the number of
over 230,000, according to the 1919 Census, are employed in the United

In the case of the woman worker, however, and especially of the young
woman worker, the community has a further interest because of the
service that women render as the mothers of the next and indeed of all
future generations. If, then, it is shown that women are physically
unfit for certain occupations that men may follow with safety, it
becomes the business of the community to protect women, even against
themselves if necessary, and to deter them from entering such lines of

The community must make use of various agencies in bringing about the
proper relations between women and their work. It may use legislation,
thereby securing, for example, factory inspectors to improve the
sanitary and moral conditions in the places where women and girls are
employed. It may use the school, the library, and various civic
improvement forces to inform both girls and their parents as to
conditions under which girls should work. It may employ vocational
guides to make proper connections between women and their work.

For all these agencies to do satisfactory work, the first requisite is
knowledge of conditions. This means skillful work upon a vast and
rapidly increasing body of facts, and wide dissemination of the
results of such work.

[Illustration: Copyright by Underwood & Underwood
Unemployed utilizing their spare time to make themselves more
efficient. The community may make use of the schools for such

We may not stop here to consider what legislatures have done and are
doing to improve conditions, other than to mention that the number of
hours that women may work is restricted in some states, as is night
work, and that a minimum wage is required in some.

Our question, however, is not so much what is forbidden women in the
way of work, as what women and girls will choose to do of the work
which is not forbidden. Facts as to what women are doing concern us
mainly as material from which to deduce information of value to the
girls who have not yet chosen.

A serious obstacle to wise choice on the part of young girls who are
pushing into industrial occupations is the uncertainty of their
continuing as workers outside the home. The average length of the
girl's industrial life is computed to be only about five years. She
enters upon work at an age when it is often impossible to tell whether
she will marry or remain single. She is usually unable to know whether
or not she will desire to marry. The great majority of girls have
therefore no stable conditions upon which to build a choice. The work
girls choose and their instability in the work they enter upon are
direct results of these unstable conditions. Many girls feel the need
of little or no training, and apply for any work obtainable, merely
because they anticipate that their industrial career will soon be

A government report on the condition of woman and girl wage-earners in
the United States gives the following facts concerning 1,391 women
working in stores:

Average length of service 5.17 years
Average wage:
First year $4.69 per week
Second year 5.28 " "
Tenth year 9.81 " "

Among 3,421 factory women investigated:

Average length of service 4.46 years
Average wage:
First year $4.62 per week
Second year 5.34 " "
Tenth year 8.48 " "

These stores and factories were presumably filled by girls who seized
the most available source of a weekly wage regardless of all but the
pay envelope. Few of them remained more than five years, and those who
did remain did not receive adequate increase in their pay by the tenth
year for workers of ten years' experience.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A cotton-mill worker. Unfortunately in the factories girls are too
often influenced by the pay envelope rather than by any special
fitness for the work they are to do]

The whole industrial situation as it concerns women would indicate
that women even more than men show lack of discrimination in seeking
to place themselves, and that the sources of information for them have
been few if not entirely lacking. Happily these conditions are
changing. We have now to teach girls to avail themselves of the
information and the guidance at hand and to learn to discriminate in
their choice of work.

Girls must realize that unskillful, mechanical work, done always with
a mental reservation that it is merely a temporary expedient, keeps
women's wages low, destroys confidence in female capacity, and has
definite bearing not only on the individual woman's earning capacity,
but on her character as well. Girls must learn to choose in such a way
that their work may be an opening into a life career or may be an
enlightening prelude to marriage and the making of a home.

Some of the women who uphold the doctrine of equality between the
sexes make the mistake of thinking and of teaching that there can be
no equality without identical work. They take the attitude that unless
women do all the sorts of work that men do, they are unjustly deprived
of their rights. Our contention is rather that women have higher
rights than that of identical work with men. They, above all other
workers, should have the right of intelligent choice of work which
they can do to the advantage of themselves, their offspring, and the
community. Such a choice will ignore the question of sex as a
drawback, accepting it, on the other hand, merely as a condition
which, like other conditions, complicates but does not necessarily
hamper choice. No girl need feel hampered by her sex because she
chooses not to do work which fails either to utilize her peculiar
gifts or to lead in what seems to her a profitable direction. No girl
should feel that her industrial experience, however short, has nothing
to contribute to the home life of which she dreams. No girl need waste
the knowledge and skill gained in industrial life when she abandons
gainful occupation for the home. Homemaking education, with industrial
experience, ought to make the ideal preparation for life work.

This, however, can be true only when the girl's industrial experience
is of the right sort. Girls must therefore be led to choose the
developing occupation. It is a part of the world's economy to lead
them to this choice.


[Footnote 7: From Puffer, _Vocational Guidance_, based on Census



It is well at the outset to recognize that vocation choosing is at
best a complicated matter which, to be successfully carried out,
demands not only much information, but information from different
viewpoints. It is not enough to insure a living, even a good living,
in the work a girl chooses. We must take into consideration the girl's
effect upon society as a teacher, nurse, saleswoman, or office worker;
and no less, in view of her evident destiny as mother of the race,
must we consider society's effect upon her, as it finds her in the
place she has chosen. In other words, will she serve society to the
best of her ability, and will her service fit her to be a better
homemaker than she would have been had no vocation outside the home

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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 9 of 14)